clock menu more-arrow no yes

Was the Titanic doomed from the start? This chart points to yes.

An illustration depicting the sinking of the Titanic.
An illustration depicting the sinking of the Titanic.
Universal Images Group/Getty Images

When you look at a chart of the White Star Line's ships' rapid expansion in size, it becomes clear that hubris was part of the equation from the beginning.

After the Titanic sank on its maiden voyage on April 15, 1912, it became a universal symbol of arrogance: an "unsinkable ship" that turned into a disaster.

The point of the Titanic was always for it to be the biggest ship around. Sitting on the far right side of the chart, it's longer than the other ships. You can hover to zoom or see a larger version here:

The White Star ships rapidly expanded in size. (Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

But more notable is the gross tonnage. The Titanic was more than 45,000 tons, nearly doubling the next-largest ship. In the modified version of the chart below, the Titanic's tonnage is highlighted in comparison to the other most recently built ships:

The White star lines

The Titanic easily beat out other ships in the White Star fleet. (Universal Images Group/Getty Images)

Other graphics, like this White Star advertisement for the Titanic, boasted about how it bested the world's tallest buildings:

The Titanic compared to buildings. (Universal Images Archive/Getty Images)

The Titanic compared with buildings. (Universal Images Archive/Getty Images)

Ads bragged that the Titanic was one of "the largest steamers in the world" and it was an elite opportunity to travel on one. But the arrogance about size contributed to the sinking of the ship: it was advertised as unsinkable, and safety measures were avoided in favor of other more "practical improvements" — which, for an "unsinkable" ship meant cutting as many extraneous safety measures as possible. Many engineers believed the ship's massive size would help it weather most collisions.

Of course, as big as the Titanic was, this hubris was a reflection of poor overall design more than just size. Today's biggest ships easily dwarf the Titanic:

Some of the world's largest ships today. (Wikimedia Commons)

Some of the world's largest ships today. (Wikimedia Commons)

By length alone, these easily surpass the Titanic's 850 feet. The cruise ship Allure of the Seas is 1,181 feet, while one of the longest container ships on Earth, the MSC Oscar, stretches 1,297 feet. The largest oil tanker, meanwhile, is the Seawise Giant, which is a full 1,504 feet. You can see a list of the world's largest ships here. Hopefully, none of them become notable for the same reason the Titanic did.